Microsoft’s Adaptive Accessories Are Built to Be Customized

3D print your own mouse

  • Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab has built a customizable mouse, button, and more.
  • You can easily 3D print add-ons to make the mouse fit your hand or limb.
  • Computer peripherals shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all.
Microsoft’s Adaptive Accessories placed on a while table near a laptop

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Adaptive Accessories let you customize mice and buttons for the perfect fit.

Back in 2018, Microsoft created the Xbox Adaptive Controller, an accessible controller that was not only easier to use standalone, but added a whole slew of neat plug-in accessories so almost anyone could play games. Today, Adaptive Accessories do the same for computer input, with the addition of 3D printing for extra customization. From RSI sufferers to people without hands, the idea is that these accessories can be made to suit them.

"Utilizing technology which provides us with better ergonomics, as well as ways to simply interrupt the repetition of working at a computer, [is a] smart way to work," educator Jordan Fabel told Lifewire via email.

Adaptation

The lineup consists of three main units: a two-button mouse-like puck, a set of buttons, and a hub. Of these, the mouse is the most interesting. You can use it alone, a chunky square, with a circular cap split into two buttons, but the point is it’s totally modular. You can attach a thumb breast to either side, add the "tail" to create a palm rest, or add a scroll-wheel unit. 

But you can also attach a joystick accessory to the top to make button pressing easier, and you can customize it further with custom 3D-printer parts. For example, you could create a custom tail for extra stability, to fit your limbs, or to clamp the whole thing into place. 

"A consumer with dexterity issues no longer has to worry about their inability to click a mouse using their index finger. Instead, they can use the bottom of their hand as a modified 'clicker,'" marketing analyst Jerry Han told Lifewire via email. 

The Adaptive Buttons allow similar configurations, only with buttons that can be set to trigger actions on the connected computer, and the hub lets you connect several button units together. 

These Adaptive Accessories join the Surface Adaptive Kit, a range of stickers, tabs, and straps that make it easier to pick up and use any tablet device, not just Microsoft’s Surface. 

Inclusive

Adaptive and accessible tech is becoming more common, but it’s still not quite there yet. Efforts like Microsoft’s Inclusive Tech Lab is working to make computers accessible for the widest range of people possible, but at the regular end of the market, the assumption is we’re all the exact same size and shape, and that if our bodies don’t fit the mice and keyboards that come with our computers, then somehow we’re odd. 

In reality, we all have different needs, and at the very least we require adjustments for our peripherals and devices. We would think it utterly absurd if Nike sold its sneakers in just one size, but that’s the state of the computer input device market. Even left-handed mice are a rarity.

Microsoft adaptive accessories, including a joystick for games

Microsoft

One of the negatives of the move to working from home is we don’t have experts to set up and kit out our workspace. A sit-stand desk, ergonomic keyboard, and perfectly-adjusted monitor arm are essential, and common in corporate offices. But at home, few of us want to spend thousands of dollars on a perfect desk setup. In fact, few of us even have the space to do it. 

It’s a shame that even these amazing gadgets from Microsoft’s Inclusive Tech Lab probably won’t be used much outside specialist needs. But why shouldn’t we customize our peripherals? After all, we buy plenty of cases for our phones, and not just ones that add bunny ears. We add cases for protection and grip, cases with rope straps to wear around our necks or across the body, and cases that let us attach camera lenses. 

Perhaps it’s a failure of marketing that keeps us from doing the same for mice and other peripherals. We might look to the kitchen for an example here. Oxo’s Good Grips range is designed for people who may have trouble using conventional kitchen gadgets. They feature oversized grips and clever designs, and are so good that they’ve become a mainstream staple. 

Imagine if accessible mice, game controllers, and so on were sold in the same way. We might all be a lot more comfortable at work.

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